Houston Hello

Each year I try to join a team on the road.  This year's road trip takes me deep in the heart of Texas as I joined the Magic Elite 17s in Houston for the H-Town Classic.  This marks the 3rd road trip of the season already for the Magic when many teams were getting out of state for the first time this past weekend.  Full game by game details are in my Northstar Hoops Report article.

An early afternoon departure gets us into George Bush Intercontinental Airport just in time for the middle of rush hour.  Despite being setup north of the airport, the trip still takes forever in the hellish traffic that Houston is known for.  Its claimed that everything is bigger in Texas and the roads didn't disappoint.  1 way frontage roads doubled as extra lanes and every major exit seemed to have a flyover ramp.  A quick drop and run at the hotel and we go next door for dinner.  Hoping for some BBQ later in the weekend, I go with a chicken sandwich for dinner.

Then a quick chance to setup the laptop in the hotel and its off to the Legends Sports Complex for the 8:30 game vs Mississippi D1 Ambassadors.  Its a 2x2 setup for the 4 courts with plenty of room to move around but a very strange setup for the college coaches.  You also had to worry about running into the numerous garbage cans they had around to catch water from the leaky roof.  Magic would use a big 1st half run to open the margin.  Final score shows the Magic picking up the win 65-53.  Reggie Lynch comes up 1 block short of a triple double on my sheet.  Minor scoring issue late as a Tom Aase layup gets credited to the wrong side of the scoreboard.  So the final score should have been 16.  Where the point differental max is +15 that could come into play.  The evening's campfire session is in the continental breakfast room for a review of the night's game.  Back to the room to type up the evening's notes before turning in late.

Only known game of the day isn't until 2:30 PM and nothing in the championship bracket after the 3:35 game.  But no rest as the other pool game between FOH Seattle and the Mississippi D1 Ambassadors is at 10:10 so up early for a quick banana and hard boiled egg for breakfast (Czar's not a big breakfast guy).  No OJ but the apple juice was worth it.  Coaches and I mosey over to watch that pool game and then while the coaches round up the players for lunch I stick around for the rest of play in the other pools.  FOH Seattle the most impressive team that I saw with 2 high major prospects and a kid off of the bench getting a mid-major head coach in the building to watch him.  I did the BBQ Pork Sandwich for lunch from the concession stand.  Oversized bun and overflowing to the point where half the sandwich ended up in the tub it came in.  2 words: Finger Food.  No way The Czar is letting that go to waste!  Good stuff with the big sandwich and enough kick to be an attention getter but not too much.  With FOH Seattle winning easily, that meant that only seeding was at stake in the Magic game.  Both teams were guaranteed to make the quarters of the top bracket at 8 AM on Sunday.  An off day for everyone on the Magic squad as FOH takes them out 64-47.  Magic did hang around but too much from a very good Seattle club. 

After a break in the hotel, the team runs around trying to find a Golden Corral only to find its out of business.  After about 3 different changes of mind, its Chipotle for half the group.  The coaches go with the Garfield rules of eating plan by having yogurt while waiting.  I hold out for Rudy's BBQ and I get my wish after dropping the kids off.  MN Triple Threat director Brett Rhodes (a Houston native who recommended the place) and Jerry Robertson forever make The Czar's Christmas Card list for making that happen.  Its a gas station look and when coming inside there's a great sight.  A line of about 50 people.  Add in a 30 foot ice filled bin of every bottle of soda you could imagine and a menu that begins with half pound portions  Get up to get the food and none of this sissy plate stuff.  Here's a crate lined with wax paper, we'll just throw your meat in there.  YA!  I went with a half pound of lean brisket, a small portion of potato salad and a 12 oz bottle of Pepsi.  That's living.  Back to the hotel to catch the end of day 1 of the NBA playoffs and an early turn in for a long Sunday.

Thanks to the loss on Saturday, the Magic draw Gold Coast (a pre-tourney favorite) in the bracket opener.  Magic would take a lead late in the first half only to see Gold Coast take control from there.  Magic would fight back in the 2nd half but Gold Coast would never give up the lead.  Magic's hot shooting can't get them over the top.  Gold Coast moves on with a 74-68 win.  They would end up winning the tournament.  Major shock that they didn't play FOH Seattle in the championship game.  With an evening flight, its back to the hotel for some R & R.  Off to TGI Friday's for a late lunch and then back to the airport and home in plenty of time to rest up for the week ahead.  Magic finish 1-2 with losses to arguably the 2 best teams in the tournament.  Gold Coast was on the ropes and they hung around with FOH Seattle despite dismal shooting.  Magic take the week off before making the trip to Iowa next week.

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